Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Marian Gaborik Finding Consistent Form At The Perfect Time

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
The New York Rangers are making their annual late season charge on the playoffs and one of the key reasons for their recent success has been their sniper Marian Gaborik finding his form.  For much of this season Gaborik has either exploded for huge performances or been virtually invisible, but over the past two weeks he has found his game more consistently and it is paying huge dividends for New York.  Gaborik is currently on a five game point streak in which he has five goals and one assist.  He is currently on his first three game goal streak of the season which is difficult to believe given how prolific he was in netting 42 goals last year.  This streak comes on the heels of only 2 goals in 14 games.

The main difference for Gaborik has been his willingness to skate and how many other things in his game it opens up.  Of those five goals two have come from in front of the net, one he found in the slot and the other two came off the rush.  The variety of goal scoring plays also bodes well for Gaborik as he is doing it in multiple ways and adding confidence to all parts of his game.  Two weeks earlier he like fails to score at least three of those goals either from a lack of confidence in his shot or his failure to be in some of those areas. 

As important as the sheer number of goals or points has been the times at which he has been getting them recently.  In the past three games he has two game winning goals in and arguably his biggest goal of the season Sunday against the Penguins to tie the game and start the Rangers rally.  These are the kinds of plays the Rangers need form Gaborik in this stretch drive and if they have hopes of advancing in the playoffs.  He does not have to be a great player for the entire night, but he does have to be a threat and cash in with those big goals to propel this team.

More than the goal scoring itself the problem for Gaborik has been his lack of consistent threat to the opposition.  When is going like he is right now it forces everyone on the opposing team to account and gameplan for how to stop him.  If he can produce in the face of that it is tremendous for the team, but even if he cannot it allows everyone else on the team to either have more space on the ice with him or weaker competition against them. 

What his production also does is alleviate the pressure from players who are better suited to be secondary options in the scoring department to go back to their normal roles without the pressure of having to carry the offense.  The ability to put the puck in the net is certainly about skill, but it is also about confidence and when your best offensive player has his confidence, or even a swagger back to his game it filters throughout the lineup and everyone gets in on the act. The consistency of results has also allowed coach John Tortorella to leaves lines together and that is an understated factor in the Rangers' recent success.

Other players have stepped up this season whether it be Callahan, Dubinsky, Boyle, Stepan, and Anisimov as all could end up with 20+ goals, but the Rangers offensive force has to be Marian Gaborik if they are going to succeed in the playoffs and luckily he is finding his form at the best possible time.